Jason Arhart Talks RSpec

We’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about and implementing test-driven development using RSpec at Flatiron School these past several days. While I certainly love the idea of loving TDD, I’ve found myself struggling to understand exactly how to effectively start dipping my toe into the Ruby testing pool.

It’s not that I don’t grasp the concept of testing first. Rather, I haven’t been able to figure out the appropriate tests to write before I actually start coding. I often find myself combining the following steps:

1. Pseudo coding a solution to the programming problem
2. Thinking of how I could test that pseudo code
3. Thinking of how I could turn that pseudo code into Ruby
4. Thinking of tests to write to test that code

Sadly, this creates a very un-TDD workflow. I either write tests that are completely unrelated to my eventual code, or I end up writing code and then creating tests that conform to that code.

I came across a wonderful deck by Jason Arhart today, though, that has finally (sort of) given me a sense of how to approach this whole TDD thing. This slide in particular was my “aha” moment…

It seems so simple, but the line “focus on what before how” is quite a brilliant way of putting it.

I’d been struggling to write effective RSpec tests (let alone even come up with tests at all) because I was approaching the whole process with a “how” mindset. I thought of my tests in the context of how I’d be solving the programming problem that was before me, rather than as a way to clearly document and test the “what” of the problem. The distinction is nuanced, but the way to properly test is to think, “what should my methods/objects/whatevers be doing?” instead of “how am I going to get my methods/objects/whatevers to solve this problem and also prove to some test that they are working?”

Of course, I still couldn’t whip together a good test suite right now, but this presentation has given me much more clarity as to how I should actually approach writing passable (hah!) test stuites in the near future.